Jane Timm for NBC News:
Allegations of voter fraud and irregularities have been used by Republicans to sow distrust in the American electoral system for decades, experts said, laying the groundwork for Trump’s sweeping claim that widespread fraud denied him a second term and priming the party’s base to believe him despite his inability to prove it. These same falsehoods, the experts said, will be used to restrict ballot-box access in the future.
“The same lies that drove the insurrections were also being repeated on the floor of the Congress by the people trying to upend the people’s votes,” said Michael Waldman, president of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law. “And those are the same lies we’re going to hear in state capitols by people trying to restrict the vote.”
Hawley and Cruz, who are widely believed to be eyeing bids for the GOP presidential nomination in 2024, have been fiercely criticized for their roles in stoking the unrest that led to the deadly clashes in the nation’s capital.
After weeks of defending Trump’s stolen election claims with statements of concern about widespread voter fraud that doesn’t exist, they led the effort in the Senate to object to the certification of Biden’s victory in the Electoral College while ignoring the facts. Since November, there had been numerous hand counts, audits, legal challenges and investigations into voter fraud that turned up nothing to support Trump’s claim and the senators’ justification for challenging Biden’s victory. Nonetheless, Republican senators have argued further investigation is warranted.
In an interview with NBC DFW Thursday, Cruz said he was “debating” election integrity, “that has nothing to do with this criminal terrorist assault.”
Responding to calls for his resignation, Hawley stood by his decision to object to the certification of the 2020 election. “I will never apologize for giving voice to the millions of Missourians and Americans who have concerns about the integrity of our elections. That’s my job, and I will keep doing it,” he said in a Thursday statement.
Before the election, Trump and his allies filed dozens of lawsuits trying to limit mail voting and make it more difficult, challenging longstanding mail voting mechanisms like drop boxes. Some courts protested at the lack of evidence the campaign presented as proof of the threat of fraud. After Biden’s win, the president and his allies filed at least 57 lawsuits across the county contesting the results with allegations of fraud and irregularities; 50 have been denied, dismissed, or withdrawn, according to NBC News’ tally. Former Attorney General William Barr, still leading the Department of Justice at the time, said no widespread fraud was evident. Republican officials in Arizona and Georgia, states Biden flipped blue, withstood enormous pressure from Trump and his allies to vouch for the integrity of the results, with some fact-checking the president in public and private to try and counter misinformation.
“There have already been investigations conducted by election officials, by investigative journalists and by courts. There’s really nothing left to investigate,” said Rick Hasen, a professor and election law expert at the University of California, Irvine. “This election was perhaps the most watched, and perhaps for that reason, the cleanest election I think we’ve seen in American political history.”